Jim Collins' Good to Great metaphor has much to say to us as we discover our gifts, talents, and our day-to-day vocation.
The truth is, God has created us as multifaceted creatures with interests and passions aplenty. How, then, do we sift through the good to find the great? That vocation we were made to do? And how can we see the hand of God in that journey?
I was good at math. Sometimes even great. I went to college intending to major in that discipline. Problem was, after two years of Calculus and other sundry numerical courses, I lost passion. I felt as ambivalent as an unsolved equation. I did not feel invigorated by integrals or integers.
But I loved writing. Always had. I'd scribbled my teenage angst in journals, written stories, penned letters, and sometimes wrote snatches of greatness. I came alive in my writing courses. After much soul-searching and prayer, I realized God was directing me toward English, so I switched majors.
Even though I felt God's smile as I wrote, I got sidetracked. I taught for a few years and nearly pulled all my hair out. I happily stayed home with my kids while days went by when I didn't write a thing other than grocery lists.
Eventually, the passion to write wouldn't die. I started penning stories, articles, poems. I felt resurrected. I reveled in writing, wondering how I could've gone so long without playing with words. I remember my pastor asking me one of the most important vocational questions I'd heard: “What one thing are you uniquely gifted to do—that if you were put in a room of a thousand people, you alone would excel in?”
The obvious answer: write.
And yet I struggled. What if I loved it too much? Was I so enamored with my gifts that I had missed God? Was God calling me to lay writing down? A friend who'd wrestled with the same conundrum helped me sort myself out. She wrote: “God brought all the men and women of faith on a journey and He used every circumstance to culminate their ministry. He never told Moses, ‘OK, stop leading the people. You love it too much.'” Her words helped me realize I could be passionate about my vocation and still follow after God.
God calls us on surprising vocational journeys. We're faced with good choices, but there are also great choices we might neglect if we shrink back in fear. God has uniquely gifted us to do great things—for His purpose, His kingdom, His pleasure. He is the Giver of all gifts, and our success completely depends on His activity through us. “Lord, You will grant us peace, for all we have accomplished is really from You” (Isaiah 26:12, NLT).
I could've been a good mathematician. But I'm thankful God has accomplished His great purposes in and through me as a writer. Looking back, I can see how He prepared me to do the work to which He's called me.
And it's great.